A kitchenly scholar’s visit (with son) to the Ig Nobel ceremony

September 30th, 2016

Robert Harington and his son survived being in the audience at the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. (Harington is Associate Executive Director, Publishing at the American Mathematical Society.) He wrote about the experience, for The Scholarly Kitchen. He says:

Let’s first set the stage. Each year, there is a theme, and this year it was “Time”. Of course this led to the some 1100 strong audience to shout “woohoo” at every mention of the word “time”, or “second” etc. My son got to exercise his vocal cords. The whole thing kicked off with paper airplane throwing and you can see how this works in the video. I have to say that the tantalizingly efficient guardian of paper airplane throwing, Nicole Sharp (creator of FYFD, the world’s most popular web site about fluid dynamics) was remarkable. In addition to the prizes themselves, given out by real Nobel Prizewinners — this years crop included Dudley Herschbach (Nobel Prize for chemistry 1986), Eric Maskin (Nobel prize for Economics 2007) and Rich Roberts (Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine 1993), there were mini-lectures in which a leading expert in a field gave a 24-second talk on their topic, followed by a 7-word summary. There was an opera, games, and live scientific experiments.

The prizewinners of course take center stage. This years winners included some fabulously funny and odd research.

The Biology prize was shared between Charles Foster of the University of Oxford and Thomas Thwaites. Charles Foster lived in the wild as if he were an animal – at different times a badger, a deer, a fox and a bird. Thomas Thwaites told us that he had enough of being a human and created prosthetic limbs that allowed him to move like a goat and spend time living among goats in the Alps. The Medicine prize was…

See for yourself. Here’s video of the entire ceremony:

This photo, taken by Mike Benveniste, shows the new Ig Nobel Prize winners, the Nobel laureates, the cast of the new opera, and other Ignitaries gathered at ceremony’s end for a pointless photo opportunity:


Lavish details will be included in this year’s special Ig Nobel issue (vol. 22, no. 6, November/December 2016) of the Annals of Improbable Research.

About our “Ig Glorious” ticket holders

September 30th, 2016

The audiences who come to Sanders Theater to watch the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony include scientists, science enthusiasts, and people who have no connection to science. Some of them come individually, some of them come in groups (self-organized Official Audience Delegations). And then there are the very special “Ig Glorious” ticket holders.

“Ig Glorious” tickets are a way for a few of our audience members to be especially (and financially) supportive of the Igs. They sit in excellent locations and enjoy access to the “Ig Glorious Liaison”,  a glorious  person who assists them in small, glorious ways throughout the evening. Ig Glorious ticket holders receive a few other perks as well, such as a gift bag that holds: (1) an Ig Nobel poster signed by at least one of the new winners; and (2) other inconsequential items.

And immediately after the ceremony officially concludes, they can pose for a photo on the Ig Nobel stage with one of the Human Spotlights! Here’s what that looks like:

One of our 2016 "Ig Glorious" ticket holders, onstage with a Human Spotlight

One of our 2016 “Ig Glorious” ticket holders, onstage with a Human Spotlight. The Human Spotlight is on the right, holding a non-human spotlight aimed at an Ig Glorious person.

Two of our 2015 "Ig Glorious" ticket holders, onstage with a Human Spotlight

Two of our 2015 “Ig Glorious” ticket holders, onstage with two Human Spotlights. The Human Spotlights are on the far left and the far right. The one on the left is Jim Bredt, who invented the concept of a Human Spotlight and who also is one of the inventors of 3D-printing. The one on the right is Katrina Rosenberg.

Two of our 2016 "Ig Glorious" ticket holders, onstage with a Human Spotlight

Two of our 2016 “Ig Glorious” ticket holders, onstage with a Human Spotlight. The Human Spotlight is the one who, in this photograph, has no visible clothing.

September mini-AIR: The new Ig Nobel winners (plus cinnamon research)

September 29th, 2016

The September issue of mini-AIR (our monthly e-mail newsletter) just went out. (mini-AIR is a wee little supplement to the magazine itself). Topics include:

  • The 2016 Ig Nobel Prize winners
  • Eating Cinnamon Converts Poor Learners Who Are Mice
  • “Reading Cinnamon Activates Olfactory Brain Regions”
  • and more
It also has info about upcoming events.

Mel [pictured here] says, “It’s swell.”

mini-AIR is the simplest way to keep informed about Improbable and Ig Nobel news and events.

Want mini-AIR e-mailed to you every month? Just opt in!

Finding grizzly: funding Troy

September 29th, 2016

Troy Hurtubise, who was awarded the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize the field of safety engineering — for developing, and personally testing a suit of armor that is impervious to grizzly bears, is still crowdfunding his new project, which is called PROJECT GRIZZLY 2. Troy explains:

Project Grizzly was Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movie of 1996: a documentary following North Bay inventor and conservationist, Troy Hurtubise, on his quest to test a protective suit against a real grizzly bear. Now, two decades later, Troy seeks to finally have the encounter with his new suit the Ursus Mark VIII.

projectgrizzlyposterThe money is being raised to finance Troy’s second expedition to the Rocky Mountains with the original film crew and the construction of the Ursus Mark VIII.  Any donations surpassing $50, 000 or more will guarantee the individual a spot on the expedition with Troy and a cameo in the film. Filming for the expedition will begin in July of 2016.

The continuation of Project Grizzly, which cemented Troy’s Legacy, was used as a significant stepping stone for his ongoing career as an inventor. Some of these creations have been featured multiple times on discovery channel and other major networks. The sequel to Project Grizzly, Project Grizzly 2: The Forbidden Trail, will show a detailed look at some of his most famous creations and many new ones. Help fund the epic conclusion to an adventure that is two decades in the making and, for the more daring, take this opportunity to be apart of it.

Back in May of this year (2016), the new project was hardly more than a glint in Troy’s mind. Now it is closer to being a reality. Troy seeks to raise $770K in crowdfunding. Pledges have already reached the $400 level, by legend the most difficult part.

Here is the original Project Grizzly, a documentary film produced by the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada, about Troy and his early adventures (yes, there were later adventures, in plentitude, Troy being the nearest real thing we have, in modernity, to the legendary questing knights of the time of King Arthur):

Troy has grit, drive, persistence, deep inner fortitude, and git-up-and-go, in abundance. As an additional source of funding for his new research, Troy is reluctantly selling one of his many inventions, the R-light (” ‘R’-light embodies a collection of varying electromagnetic fields and other principle forces within a closed, semi-vaccum containment field. As the collective energy of the whole becomes one unified singular, a staggered, photonic beam is created.”). That historic invention is now available on EBay (however, for reasons unstated, it “may not ship to the U.S.”).

A one-person conversation about living in the wild à la several different animals

September 29th, 2016

The Conversation invited Charles Foster to have one side of a conversation about his experiences living as animals. A few days ago, Foster shared the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for biology. That prize was awarded jointly to Charles Foster, for living in the wild as, at different times, a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, and a bird; and to Thomas Thwaites, for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move in the manner of, and spend time roaming hills in the company of, goats.

Here is the beginning of Charles Doster’s Conversation conversation:


I have lived as a badger in a hole in a Welsh wood, as an otter in the rivers of Exmoor, an urban fox rummaging through the dustbins of London’s East End, a red deer in the West Highlands of Scotland and on Exmoor, and, most hubristically, a swift, oscillating between Oxford and West Africa. For this I was recently awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for “achievements that make people laugh, and then think.” Why I did this is not an unreasonable question. There are many answers. One is that I wanted to perceive landscapes more accurately.

We have at least five senses. By and large we use only one of them – vision. That’s a shame. We’re missing out on 80% of the available information about the world. I suspect it’s responsible for lots of our uncertainty about the sort of creatures we are, our personal crises, and the frankly psychopathic way in which most of us treat the natural world. If we only perceive 20% of something, we’re unlikely to be able to relate appropriately to it.

In fact, it’s rather worse than this….